NEW YORK – The Village Voice, a Pulitzer Prize-winning alternative weekly known for muckraking investigations, exhaustive arts criticism, naughty personal ads and neurosis-laden cartoons, is going out of business after 63 years.
Its publisher, Peter Barbey, announced Friday that the paper is ceasing publication altogether because of financial problems, a year after it stopped circulating in print and went digital only.
“Today is kind of a sucky day,” he told staff members.
Eight of the Voice’s 18 remaining staffers were laid off. Others stayed behind to digitize its print archive so future generations can read it.
News editor Neil deMause said staffers were more saddened than shocked by the news. “It’s 2018 and we’re all aware of the state of the journalism industry,” said deMause, 52, who started reading the Voice as a teenager in the 1980s.
The Voice was America’s first alternative newsweekly, founded in Greenwich Village in 1955 by a group who included writer Norman Mailer. It once had a weekly circulation of 250,000 and was home to some of New York’s best investigative journalists and music writers.
The combative, left-leaning paper became known for brash political reporting and its coverage of music and theater. It also became a powerful advocate for New York’s gay community.
It won three Pulitzers: for editorial cartooning and feature writing in the 1980s and for international reporting in 2000 for a series on AIDS in Africa.
The Voice nurtured such talents as jazz maven and civil libertarian Nat Hentoff; investigative reporter Wayne Barrett, whose targets included Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Donald Trump; and culture writers such as Manohla Dargis, now a film critic for The New York Times.
“This is a tragedy, and it hurts my heart,” Dargis wrote on Twitter. “This is where I started my professional writing life and where I met brilliant writers — and many friends — too numerous to mention.”
Cartoonist Jules Feiffer’s jagged, satirical comic strip ran in the Voice from 1956 through 1997. His obsessions included psychoanalysis, sex and the manifold urban anxieties of Cold War America.
“As a longtime reader and fan of the Voice even more than as a writer and editor, I am deeply saddened that we won’t have the Voice’s voice anymore,” deMause said. “It’s a huge, huge loss.”
Barbey, also president of The Reading Eagle newspaper in Pennsylvania, bought the Voice in 2015 in an attempt to save it following a series of ownership changes, staff departures and losses in readership and advertising that had left it in a state of perpetual peril.
He tried to stem the paper’s losses by giving up print publication last summer and publishing online only — a step that removed the Voice from the sidewalk boxes that were a fixture on New York street corners for generations.
It failed to stop the financial bleeding.
“In recent years, the Voice has been subject to the increasingly harsh economic realities facing those creating journalism and written media,” Barbey wrote. “Like many others in publishing, we were continually optimistic that relief was around the next corner. Where stability for our business is, we do not know yet. The only thing that is clear now is that we have not reached that destination.”